The scene is set in Her Every Fear with Karen Priddy, a woman who had been subjected to a traumatic attack by her ex-boyfriend arranging to swap her flat in London for Corbin Dell’s apartment in Boston. Karen has been beset by anxiety ever since the attack and it is almost on a whim that she decides that the swap could be just what she needs, she can study illustration at the college there, and move away from the well-meaning but coddled existence she is living. Corbin Dell is a cousin, albeit one she’s never met before but they’ve exchanged emails in the run-up to the swap and almost before she knows it Karen is on the plane and into a fancy-pants apartment complete with a welcoming bottle of champagne.
Unfortunately for Karen, since she’s understandably of a nervous disposition a dead body has been found in a neighbouring apartment. Not ideal. but having come so far Karen is not about to turn tail, anyway a nice neighbour has introduced himself as has a former boyfriend of the deceased woman who turns up full of anguish make Karen curious and she begins to do some investigating of her own. With the police being in touch and there a few doubts about how well Corbin knew the deceased, Audrey, Karen has no qualms to prevent her snooping through Corbin’s cupboards and drawers to find out more about this secretive man.
Using four different points of view to examine the major scenes the reader is able to piece together much about each of the characters including how they appear to the others, and of course determine where exactly the truth lies. This is a clever method however it runs the risk that by the time the reader is onto the last person, the story is becoming a little repetitive in places, and as often as not, there are few surprises left. This device however does mean that this is a psychological thriller in what I like to think is the original meaning, this is about the psyche of a number of characters, guilty and innocent, rather than a reaction to a single event.
Peter Swanson is not one to shy away from complexity in his novels so not only do we have the multiple viewpoints we also have two major time periods with one section of the story stretching back to when Corbin was a student in London and of course he also throws in a mix of locations to ensure that he has all the major scene shifting arrangements fully in place. Being an exceptionally confident writer none of this complexity results in a muddled reading experience, all is crystal clear and clearly signposted and I suspect the repetition of parts of the tale actually help in keeping all the events in a clear time-line with the location and key characters fixed in the reader’s mind.
With the identity of the murderer pretty much confirmed before the half-way point you’d imagine that this book would lack some of the tension – not so, this is a seriously creepy book, more because of the characters and what the reader knows they are capable of which in turn actually ramps up the tension, sometimes to unbearable heights, as the drama unfolds.
This is principally a book about how psychopath’s operate, the real ones that live amongst us disguised as your neighbour, colleague or local MP and it is executed incredibly well. I’m not easily spooked but more than one of the people who walk among the pages of Her Every Fear had me feeling decidedly uneasy.
I’d like to thank the publishers Faber and Faber who granted my wish on NetGalley to read Her Every Fear which will be published on 12 January 2017.